Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – After months of the shutdown, schools in Covid-19 low-risk areas or "yellow zones" will reopen for face-to-face learning under strict health protocols.
According to Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim, the government had been mulling over the reopening plan following complaints of lengthy online learning.
Parents struggle to juggle with teaching their children and having a full-time job. Teachers feel the pressure to complete the curriculum despite the circumstances and later assigns their students with a mountain of schoolwork.
Nadiem also feared that there are permanent adverse effects of prolonged distance learning, such as the higher risk of dropouts. Children lacking reliable technology can potentially fall behind and thus widening the gap in learning achievement with those that have access. They are also exposed to psychosocial risks from violence at home and stress from being unable to see their friends.
"This is why government policy should not be one dimensional. Aside from keeping the children safe from Covid-19, we also have to consider what is best for their future," Nadiem said at an online press conference on Friday.
Government data shows that 163 districts or cities in the yellow zone, or having a low risk of Covid-19 spread based on the government's determined indicators. Earlier, schools in 86 green zone regions, which did not have any Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, the option to reopen.
In total, 47 percent of students across the archipelago can now attend in-person classes, whereas the remaining 53 percent in orange and red zones still have to stick with distance learning. "Schools in yellow zones can reopen, but it is not a must," Nadiem said.
The minister only allows primary and secondary schools to reopen as of now. Early childhood education (Paud) will be able to start in October at the earliest.
Before reopening, there is also a checklist for schools to complete, including a permit from the regional government and strict health protocols. The school cannot force children to attend classes if their parents refuse to send their kids off.
Schools must also immediately shut down if the government declares risk in the region has risen.Regardless of their zones, vocational high schools and universities can hold practicum classes under strict health protocols. All theory courses must remain online.
Meanwhile, holding face-to-face classes amid the pandemic can be challenging. Schools in green zones were the first to reopen in June, but emerging cases.
One teacher and a school operator were confirmed positive for Covid-19 in Pariaman, West Sumatera. The local government immediately shut down the schools in the area, according to local online media Kompas.
The Health Ministry had agreed to let schools in yellow zones reopen but insisted the schools must be closed immediately should any positive case found among their teachers or students.
"If a positive case is found in a school in the green or yellow zone, the face-to-face learning activities [in the school] will be stopped and returned to distance learning from home," Oscar Primadi, the ministry's secretary-general said on Friday.
No more pressure
Nadiem has rolled out an emergency curriculum for all educational levels, which will be implemented throughout the 2020/2021 school year.
"We have simplified the competency standards in the 2013 curriculum for each subject. With this, teachers can focus on teaching competency that is essential and required to advance to the next level," the former Gojek chief executive said.
The emergency curriculum is also optional. Schools can still opt for the previous curriculum if it suits them better. For a more interactive lesson, teachers no longer have to teach 24 hours a week.
The ministry has also prepared study-from-home modules for teachers, parents, and students in the earlier educational stage. For PAUD, the module focuses on fun activities to ward off boredom at home. As of elementary schools, it highlights literacy, numeracy, character building, and life skills.
The module also gives more explicit instructions for both parents and teachers, Nadiem said.